TIJUANA, Mexico — Mexico’s president crafted a show of political strength Saturday, summoning lawmakers to a rally near the U.S. border as he sought to turn his immigration concessions to President Trump into an improbable political victory.
Trump’s threat to impose punishing tariffs on Mexico provoked one of the most severe crises in years between the neighbors. Many Mexicans expressed relief that an agreement averted a damaging trade showdown.
But the sense of reprieve also came with worry about what comes next as Trump enters a reelection campaign in which immigration is likely to be a central theme.
A former senior Mexican official, Liébano Sáenz, wrote in the newspaper Milenio that the U.S. tariff ultimatum was the “biggest challenge for Mexican diplomacy” since 1938, when a revolutionary government expropriated foreign oil companies, prompting an American boycott of the country’s goods.
After days of frantic talks to avoid Trump’s threatened tariffs, Mexico agreed to deploy thousands of national guard troops to its border with Guatemala to stem a rising flow of U.S.-bound migrants.
The government also pledged to host more migrants seeking American asylum while their U.S. court proceedings are in progress — a program that was already underway but in a more limited scope at a few points along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The new accord, however, appears to represent a significant expansion of the policy and could leave Mexico hosting nearly all Central American migrants who trek north to seek U.S. asylum.
The agreement might appear a huge political risk for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist with a long history of support for Mexican immigrants in the United States. Some critics also raised the possibility that Trump could use tariff threats in the future to seek even more concessions from Mexico.
But the Mexican leader has two factors in his favor: his extraordinary political dominance and the country’s growing weariness with the rising number of Central Americans traversing its territory on their way to the U.S. border.
And much of the public reaction to the deal has been positive so far.
Manufacturers in Mexico — who send 80 percent of their products to the United States — breathed a sigh of relief that the tariffs were averted.
Mexican diplomats called it a triumph that they had held off U.S. demands for a “safe third country” agreement, which would have forced Central American asylum seekers to apply for refuge in Mexico, rather than in the United States.
“The bilateral relationship is strengthened for the benefit of the region,” wrote Jesús Seade, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America.